"That'll be 40.000 valis."
"Here you go."
Isaac carefully scrutinized his purchase again while leaving the armour store. As his last vambrace had gone into early retirement yesterday, he had needed to replace it. The new one he got was black as well, just quite a lot tougher and five times as expensive.
Even though adventurers earned millions of valis, this job consumed almost as much as it spat back out. While normal adventurers would rarely have to replace their equipment and could therefore accumulate quite a lot of wealth, as they grew stronger rather slowly, Isaac's expenses would barely be able to be covered by his income. Thankfully, yesterday's magic stones and drop items had given him 391.200 valis, quite a hefty sum.
When he reconvened with his party in front of the store, Jakk walked up to him quickly, before whispering something into Isaac's ear with a confused expression on his face.
"Why are they here?"
The 'they' in his question had referred to Ais, who was sticking close to Isaac just like a shadow, and a group of four girls happily chatting away: Tiona, Tione, Lefiya and Elfy.
A forced smile spread across Isaac's face before he replied to the bunny boy's inquiry.
"They had nothing better to do and wanted to accompany me today… sorry."
Isaac apologized both because he couldn't bring himself to tell the whole truth, as to not worry him, and also because he knew Jakk didn't enjoy being around large groups of people.
Being well aware of how free-spirited his superiors usually were, Jakk could only sigh resignedly and accept the temporary increase in party size. As there was no way around it, complaining wasn't of any use.
Yesterday, after Isaac's return to the Twilight Manor, Ais had immediately noticed the missing vambrace and asked him about what had happened. At the time, she had been in the company of the other four girls. As Isaac wasn't a liar and also didn't feel a need to hide his experience from the others, he told Ais that he had been in a slightly dangerous situation which lead to the destruction of the vambrace. Of course, she had then asked him about the exact circumstances, so he retold the story in full.
Lo and behold, the entire group decided to accompany him today, which lead to the current 'predicament'.
Ais had decided to come along just in case Isaac got himself in trouble he couldn't deal with. Even though everything had turned out fine, her protective instincts were stirred up when she had heard about him having such a close shave with death. Now that she was here, it would be easy for her to protect him in case something unforeseen happened. Lefiya only wanted to stay close to Ais, so she decided to tag along as well. And Elfy, well, she had nothing else to do.
As for the Amazoness sisters, they were bored out of their minds. Even though Finn, Riveria and Gareth were painstakingly making preparations for the next expedition, those two wouldn't be of much help, so they were left to their own devices in the meantime. Because Lefiya had bragged about it a lot before, they had wanted to see Isaac fighting anyway. So now that they had a chance, why not take it?
Thankfully, Isaac had already asked all of the girls to not interfere with his monster slaying activities by leaving monsters they came across for him to deal with. Now that they had agreed to leave them all to him, he wouldn't be wasting his time. Nonetheless, it was a weird feeling to have this small audience follow him around. They also attracted quite a lot more attention than Isaac would have liked.
Just like the two days before, Isaac left behind his group of students under the protection of Jakk and made his way down the dungeon quickly. As all of his battles ended instantly, with a single move, there was no chance for the audience to appreciate that world akin to a chessboard, they could only be amazed by the efficiency of his kills.
Sometime after yesterday's dinner, Isaac had asked Loki to update his Status yet again, after which she had run off to god-knows-where in a hurry. She had seemed even more shocked than before, after his speed of growth had soared yet again. Still, to Isaac, it didn't matter where she went, as he highly doubted Loki would plan to do anything to hurt him. He was part of her familia, so harming him would basically just be harming herself, after all.
Because of his sharp increase in strength, Isaac found it all too easy to deal with the hard armored and silverbacks on the eleventh floor today. After all, his stats were even higher than an average silverback's now. The enemies that took him a long time to take down yesterday were slain with a single sword stroke.
He didn't plan to go out of his way to search for the infant dragon he had crossed paths with yesterday. Mostly because infant dragons were an incredibly rare spawn and it would take him many, many days to come across enough of them to fully research the species, if he spent all of his time on this floor. Therefore, he decided to just hope for a lucky encounter every time he ventured into the dungeon - one day, he would have come across enough of them to complete his research.
Contrary to his rather pessimistic outlook, nobody had slain the infant dragon from yesterday. So when he arrived back at the area he had encountered it before, the same large frame soon entered his eyes.
When she saw the cold, emotionless smile on Isaac's face, Ais instantly knew what was about to happen and signaled for the chattering girls to stay back and observe.
Another torture sessio- ahem, some more research was imminent.
Without an ounce of nervousness, Isaac made his way straight towards the infant dragon, without bothering to hide. Although the monster had a 500 stat point lead on him, such a small gap was all too easily bridged by his sheer skill, there was no need to worry.
Even before the monster noticed his approach, he had already entered his focused state again. This time, before the first breath attack had been launched, Isaac had easily outmaneuvered his opponent and was far from where it was aiming at. By the time the stream of fire had left its mouth, Isaac had swiftly closed in and was less than one meter from the infant dragon. This finally caused the monster to launch a hurried melee attack of its own, which he had already anticipated. Leaning back slightly, Isaac dodged the sharp claws.
Very soon, it was clear that no matter what kind of attack the dragon launched, it couldn't touch or endanger Isaac. It was simply too slow to do so. Although Isaac found it hard to give it major injuries as well, he was able to pierce its scales when he attacked them directly. Still, who would ignore their opponent's weaknesses and target their strengths? But if Isaac targeted the monster's eyes and the inside of its mouth, the fight would be over way too quickly.
Over a period of twenty minutes, the pained and agonized cries of the infant dragon could be heard from hundreds of meters away.
Ais and Lefiya were already used to such a spectacle. By now, even Lefiya didn't have any majorly adverse reaction to such a sight, she only sighed resignedly every now and then, pitying the poor monster. Elfy, on the other hand, was dumbstruck when she saw how Isaac toyed with this infamous floor boss. Compared to Lefiya, she also wasn't able to notice the special state Isaac was in, so she only thought of what was happening as an amazing and horrifying performance. Now that the dragon had lost all of its limbs, it still tried to put up a resistance… wait, did it just… cry? Yeah, that was probably Elfy's imagination… or was it?
Tiona and Tione, on the other hand, were able to immerse themselves within Isaac's world of prediction just like Ais. They got completely absorbed by what they saw, not even paying attention to the passage of time. The two of them were occasionally very brutal and excessive when fighting monsters anyway, with Tione often times just using her bare fists to pummel them, so they weren't particularly weirded out by Isaac's research.
[ Achievement Progress:
Kill 1000 Level 2 monsters. (1/1000) ]
When the battle had ended and Isaac had put the magic stone into his inventory stealthily, Tiona ran up to him with a fervent look in her eyes. While breathing heavily, she grabbed his shoulders quite hard, almost to the degree of breaking his bones. Clearly, she wasn't in full control of herself right now.
"That was awesome!!"
Of course, Isaac thanked her for the praise, but he was still a little weirded out by her unrestrained behaviour and the peculiar look in her eyes. She almost seemed like a predator…
Thankfully, it didn't take long for Tione to arrive and hit her on the head to snap her out of it.
"Sorry about that. But really, well done. I'm impressed."
When he saw Ais' pouting face as she pulled on his sleeve, Isaac finally put the pieces together. As an Amazoness' goal was to have powerful offspring, they scoured the land for the strongest males they could find. For an Amazoness, an impressive fight would be quite the seductive sight to witness. As Tiona wasn't obsessed with someone, unlike her sister, what happened was basically the equivalent of a single man seeing a woman put on a very sensual performance.
Once he realized this, Isaac couldn't help but smile awkwardly. He had never thought about what kind of effect his battles would have on the Amazoness sisters, so he honestly felt a bit guilty for failing to take their differences into account. Additionally, he had no interest in the bubbly Tiona whatsoever.
"What a breathtaking battle. So that's why Lefiya is so obsessed with you!"
Elfy's words just earned her a 'beating' from the flustered elf.
After the humorous situation had calmed down again, the now clear-headed Tiona started to drag Tione away hastily, with fighting spirit burning in her eyes. Besides arousing her, this battle had also shown her a path forward she had never been aware of.
"I can't grow complacent. I gotta train harder!"
These words seemed to awaken something within Lefiya, as the still slightly blushing elf's eyes instantly turned resolute when she heard them. Hurriedly, she followed the two Amazonesses.
"Wait for me!"
Seeing everyone else leave, Elfy felt that it would be a little awkward to stick around and decided to follow her roommate. Before she hurried off, however, she winked mischievously.
"Have fun, you two~"
Thankfully, Ais didn't really understand the implications of these words, so she just tilted her head in confusion. Isaac, however, blushed almost imperceptibly.
After clearing his throat to get rid of his embarrassment, he continued further into the dungeon.
To his disappointment, the dungeon and the monsters spawning didn't change on the 12th floor whatsoever. Additionally, he also didn't come across another infant dragon for his research, so he could only speedily make his way through the floor unimpeded.
When he arrived on the 13th floor, however, a wide smile spread across Isaac's face. From here on until the 17th floor was an area the adventurers referred to as the 'middle floors'. Everything about the dungeon changed yet again at this point, earning the area yet another nickname: Cave Labyrinth. Even the entrance of the 13th floor was called the 'First Line', as beyond it lay the first significant spike in difficulty an adventurer would have to deal with. Most adventurers would earn their qualifications to rank up to Level 2 in these floors. In all seriousness, though, the vast number of nicknames was almost over the top.
The surroundings were now made of bedrock, while the layout got a lot more intertwined and complicated. Contrary to before, this dungeon floor wasn't all just located on the same horizontal level. Now, there were upper and lower tunnels that twisted and weaved around each other, making it nigh impossible for one to know their location, unless one was very familiar with the terrain.
While the mist from the previous floors cleared up, the air got a little more moist and the lighting got significantly less reliable. Not to the extent where it was hard to see if one concentrated, though.
To make things even more confusing, many vertical holes leading to the lower floors could be found seemingly randomly throughout the entire middle floors. What truly made this place almost impossible to traverse for the usual solo adventurer was the almost doubled monster spawn rate. For Isaac, however, this was more of a blessing.
Although the new research subjects weren't much of a challenge, five new monster species made up all of the monsters spawning on the 13th floor.
The first one he came across was a pack of hellhounds. Contrary to its fear-inducing name, it was just a slightly larger, black dog that could launch balls of flame from its mouth. Its stats could reach up to A-850, which was on the same level as a silverback, and its method of attack wasn't much of a problem now that Isaac had come across monsters with long-range attacks multiple times. For another adventurer, dealing with a large pack and the many angles attacks could possibly come from would be difficult, however.
Another new monster, that spawned quite frequently, was the almiraj. It was a white rabbit monster with a horn, quite akin to the needle rabbit Isaac had encountered before. Still, its stats that could only reach up to A-800 made it the weakest monster species in the middle floors and unless they were in huge groups, Level 1 adventurers found it quite easy to deal with them.
The battle boar was rarely encountered in packs, but as its stats reached up to S-900, huge packs of them could effortlessly overwhelm normal adventurers. As the name implied, it was a huge boar standing two meters tall when it was on all fours - it was simply massive and charging at an opponent was the most lethal attack of its repertoire, thanks to its impressive weight. Because of that, however, it was quite hard for it to turn while it was charging, which enabled Isaac to deal with it way too smoothly.
With pink scales, the wyverns spawning on this floor looked a lot more comical than dangerous at first glance. Still, their stats went up to S-950, so he had to take the five meter long dragon subspecies a little seriously. Well, when he was fighting, he was never slacking, so such a situation wouldn't come to pass. As there was barely any room to perform flying maneuvers down here, as the ceiling could only reach up to fifty meters in some of the larger caverns, the wyverns couldn't fully exploit their 3D maneuverability, but even if they could, they would only be more of a timesink than a danger.
As for the last new monster on this floor, it finally brought something new to the table. The dungeon worm could randomly attack from within the walls, ceiling or ground of the dungeon. It didn't look too pleasant to the eye, as it was an enormous, slimy worm with a huge mouth. Besides that, it didn't have any noticeable features. Amusingly, its stats could also reach up to S-950, just like the wyverns.
Besides making Isaac more alert to his surroundings, the only other thing his encounter with the dungeon worms changed was his thoughts pertaining to the huge holes leading down to the lower floors. Were those made by gigantic dungeon worms? He couldn't be sure, as the aforementioned worms were only about two meters in diameter. To make such huge holes, worms ten to twenty times that diameter would be required. What a terrifying thought...
In any case, Isaac could finally spend a lot of time on research again, so it took him almost two hours to make his way to the stairs leading to the 14th floor. It was already 10.30 a.m., but he still had a lot of time until he needed to get ready to return to the surface again.
With that said, nothing changed on the 14th floor, so Isaac reluctantly blitzed through it in less than thirty minutes, not wanting to waste any more time here. At least the monsters here had started to give him a handful of stat points again each time he killed one. Before he had entered the 13th floor, he had barely gained any when slaying the even weaker ones, they could only give him more progress on his monster slaying quest and give him a little bit of valis. Besides that, they were a waste of time. Of course, the infant dragon was an exception to that.
Although Isaac had been a little tempted to follow in Bell's footsteps and jump down one of the holes leading to the lower floors to hasten his journey, he at least wanted to explore this floor the normal way first, in case he ever needed to use the path he had determined now.
On the 15th floor, another change took place. It was only to the monsters spawning on this floor, however, not to the dungeon itself. The almiraj and dungeon worms from before had stopped to appear, in their stead, there were two new monster species.
Both of them were Level 2 monsters even stronger than the infant dragon from before - and Isaac had briefly come across both of them before as well, right after his arrival in this world. Today would be his first time actually clashing with them, though.
The first of the two that he came across was a lone minotaur. Minotaurs were bull headed humanoid monsters that stood almost three meters tall and could occasionally be seen wielding a weapon, most likely pried from their previous victims or generated by the dungeon itself. Its stats reached up to H-100, which would translate to 1550 if they were converted to Level 1. Now that he finally faced one of them, Isaac was quite eager to battle.
But even though the minotaur was the strongest monster he had fought so far, it couldn't escape its inevitable fate and became one of his totally voluntary research subjects as well. As it had a mostly humanoid frame, the only thing Isaac had to even research was its use of its horns, which made him end his research on the species quite quickly.
Although it sounded simple, Isaac actually had to spend a lot of stamina when facing this lone minotaur. He knew that he was close to his limit and wouldn't be able to deal with monsters significantly stronger than minotaurs in his current form. Thankfully, he didn't have to face a minotaur specifically trained by a certain Freya Familia member…
Another thing to be happy about was that lygerfangs, the other new species of monsters starting to spawn on this floor, were not significantly stronger than minotaurs. Their stats only reached up to H-150, which translated to 1650. Sure, that was about double Isaac's stats and he had to spend even more stamina to deal with a single one of them, but he was still barely able to hold on. During his first few fights with the oversized tigers, he almost got hurt a few times, though. Still, if he didn't encounter more than one of them, he was able to kill them. Otherwise, he would be able to get away without too much of a problem.
On this floor, it took Isaac significantly longer to deal with a single monster than before, almost up to minute after he had finished his research. Additionally, he had to be at the top of his game all the time, which led to a ravenous consumption of his stamina. It was no wonder why even the usual Level 2 adventurers preferred to fight these monsters in a group - it was nigh impossible for a single person to hold on for too long.
Even Isaac's stamina was close to bottoming out at around 12 p.m. when he had to leave to head up to the surface again. It had been an anticlimactic day compared to yesterday, but Isaac was honestly glad about that. Who would want to needlessly put their life in danger, after all?
On his way back to his students, Isaac examined his sword concernedly. There were now serious signs of wear and tear, it was even chipped in a few places. The minotaur and lygerfang hides were simply too tough for the material his sword was made from to handle.
'I guess there's no way around it, it's time I upgrade my equipment.'
When he left the dungeon for the day, Isaac took note of his progress. His two monster slaying quests had progressed to 1648/2000 for the Level 1 and 19/1000 for the Level 2 monsters respectively.
With the money he got from the exchange today, a total of 687.050 valis, Isaac officially became a millionaire. That was definitely enough to give his equipment a major upgrade.
Ais' presence during Isaac's sparring session with his students didn't bring about any major changes. She just contentedly watched the entire process from a corner of the courtyard, while petting the lazy Averin. If there was one thing that changed, it was that Jakk didn't need to hold back any of his strength in his sparring match with Isaac anymore, which made the normally reclusive hume bunny youth burn with vigorous fighting spirit.
Time flew by quickly, and soon, today's training came to an end. Finally, Isaac had some time for himself, so he decided to upgrade his equipment now. Because he didn't want to leave out the patient beauty, who had been with him the entire day, he turned to Ais and asked her a seemingly harmless question.
"I'm going to buy some new equipment. Want to come with me?"
To his surprise, Ais blushed a little bit in response, before she looked at him with a shy but expectant look in her eyes.
"... a date?"
I hope you'll enjoy this week's chapter o/
Equipment shopping spree incoming? Maybe.
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